An Unexpected Gift

Reading the Little Blue Engine Blakely FIT 2014After dinner and a warm bath, we snuggle and read before bed like many young families. Sometimes I’m a model parent: animated, engaged. Other times, not so much — going through the motions and struggling to stay awake as the day’s chores still loom.

Recently we read, once again, The Little Engine That Could, Watty Piper’s tale of perseverance and grit that has lasted for more than 80 years in print. On this particular evening, I’m attentive — and suddenly struck by an enlightening passage.

Mr. Piper writes: “Some of the cars were filled with all sorts of good things for boys and girls to eat — big golden oranges, red-cheeked apples, bottles of creamy milk for their breakfasts, fresh spinach for their dinners, peppermint drops and lollypops for after-meal treats.”

Apples, oranges, spinach and milk depicted as precious treats for children? How often do we see good food as a treat?

Thanksgiving is at our doorstep. Yet before all the harried preparations subsume our lives, we might take a moment to recall Mr. Piper’s words. Remembering life before we had such abundant produce departments could provide perspective for the feast ahead. Recalling a time when health was not so easily remedied with pills or surgery could inspire us to take more care with our bodies. Maybe this is the other lesson in Mr. Piper’s timeless tale.

Today, we have so much food in our grocery stores and restaurants that one third of it goes uneaten, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In fact, food is the biggest single source of waste in this country, more than plastic or paper, the EPA finds.

Thanksgiving provides time with older generations. Let’s ask about their experiences. Do our older relatives and friends recall a time before our era of plenty? When vegetables were not available year-round? When a “golden orange” was a coveted gift? And when candy was a special treat? What about a time when resolving pain did not include MRI, physical therapy or ultrasound? When walking to and from work or school was not a chore but part of daily life?

No question, we’re truly fortunate to have access to so much food and state-of-the-art healthcare. As we celebrate through this holiday of gratitude, a broader perspective might let us appreciate and enjoy our food and health all the more. It could be an unexpected gift hiding in a familiar place.

Rekindle an Old Flame

BlakelyFITBlackWidowHalloween2014Last Thursday afternoon, I found myself getting excited. Really excited.

Growing up, I loved Halloween as much as the next kid: bags of free candy, late night celebrating, costume fun, what’s not to love? This, of course, transitioned as a young adult. Halloween afforded me the excuse to party, dress up and partake in other indulgences. My partying days are now less frequent and my enthusiasm had waned for this beloved holiday. Until, last week.

My daughters rekindled an old flame. Their relentless anticipation of the parties, the candy and spooky, haunted, fun was contagious. Their joy and energy pulled me in and I found myself enjoying the preparations that otherwise (I’m embarrassed to say) would have felt like “one more thing to do.”

Isn’t this possible with living healthfully? It’s a stretch to compare candy to kale. Let’s remember, enthusiasm is contagious. And enthusiasm for healthy living is possible and probable when we surround ourselves with the right people. Do you have anyone in your life that seems to have struck a healthy living balance? Could you hang out with them more? Ask them to coffee? Listen to their story of arriving at said balance. Let it inspire you. Being around people on a healthy living journey can be a powerful source of inspiration. Look around, listen and let their energy spark a change that could last a lifetime.


Michelle and Patrick Silly at Wedding

Conversation between my husband and me:

Michelle: “I don’t really like it when people assume I only eat low fat foods.”

Patrick: “Well, it’s kind of a compliment. They’re indirectly assuming that you practice what you preach.’”

Michelle: “It’s not the misconception about me that’s upsetting, it’s the misconception about how to live healthfully.”

The path to consistent exercise and healthy living are (at times) misunderstood. Infomercials, elevator talk, misinformed friends or family, and poor reporting have left some of us mistaken about the effective and accurate guidelines for healthy living. Like the new kid in class, I hope you make the time to get to know the truth about effective ways to live healthfully. Below are the top three wellness misconceptions repeatedly crossing my desk:

Misconception #1: Healthy eating for weight loss is primarily about fat and calories.
Food is more to our bodies than weight management. Nutrients are an important part of the equation. Focusing solely on fat grams and calorie intake will leave you unsuccessful (and very unsatisfied.)

Misconception #2: Lifting weights will make me big and bulky.
I have met VERY few women in my line of work that are genetically predisposed to “bulk up.” Lifting weights has tremendous benefits for your health, longevity, injury prevention and weight loss. As long as you are with a skilled trainer, there is nothing to fear.

Misconception #3: Faster, harder or more intense is better.
Unless you are a serious athlete or training for a VERY specific event, faster, harder and more intense is NOT necessarily better. Moderate exercises performed on a regular basis is generally an excellent exercise prescription for individuals wanting to lose weight and improve their wellness and health.

Connect today to start your change: 773-680-6824

Strength Training Exclusively for Women, Chicago, IL

Who’s in Charge, Here?

WARNING: This one might sting a bit.

In your aspirations to live healthfully, painlessly or attractively, who’s in charge? Do you behave as though something else dictates your success? The tough truth is: you are responsible for the trajectory of your health/fitness/weight/etc. I am aware that may be an unwelcome reminder and I am also aware that I have probably lost some of you at this point.


The habit of blaming things beyond ourselves for our current position: why we have gained weight, don’t exercise or hate to look at our closet because nothing fits well, is understandable. There are always variables moving in and out of our lives, sometimes harsh and sometimes overwhelming. We can not chose the hand life deals us. But, until we accept that at every turn we are always responsible for how we proceed, success will be elusive.

I share this with you because, as usual, my clients have inspired me. They always do. In some ways it’s hard to be fit and healthy. However, the clients succeeding the fastest are those that quickly move beyond the blame game. Blame is irrelevant. Blame doesn’t fix. Blame offers a fake explanation but never a solution. And, that is the lesson. Healthy living is impossible with out a sense of volition. So, let blame go. Choose to put your energy into problem solving, implementing new habits and enlisting help to find solutions.

Wasting days or months or years ignoring the power you have to improve your life is discouraging. Next time your are tempted to blame, pose the question “Who’s in charge, here?” The truthful (and ultimately, delightful) answer is: you are. Hurdles appear in all of our paths: “The meeting time changed conflicting with my workout.” “The gym was too crowded.” “I’m not a morning person.” “I have bad genes.” “My husband didn’t pay the Comcast bill on principle so our internet is out and I can’t watch House of Cards during cardio like I wanted!” (OK, so maybe all my inspiration isn’t from clients.)

In the end, isn’t the goal to be successful? fit? healthy and happy with the skin we’re in?

Embrace that you are in charge of making your life healthier. Kick blame to the curb.

Email today to get started:

Strength Training Exclusively for Women, Chicago, IL

150% Is Not the Answer

A client shared her dilemma: “When working toward a goal, I can give 150% and I can give 50%, but I’m not able to find that balance of giving 100% that allows for a more sustainable pattern and balance in my life.”

Listen, an all or nothing work ethic has it’s benefits. But in the game of habitually, healthy living, it will leave you wanting. Why is 150% so bad? Why on Earth would you want me to hold back, Michelle? Isn’t “more” better? Not if it isn’t sustainable and not if you haven’t progressed into it. Why? Because each of us can only sustain that level of intensity for so long and often we end up performing at 50% for weeks (or even months) afterward as a means of recovery. So, instead of a steady, consistent, doable work out regime, we end up with one really intense period followed by lackadaisical weeks or months. This does not deliver the benefits you seek. If you have trouble with moderation, here are a few suggestions:


Modeling: Whether real or fictitious, imagine how a person with a good sense of life balance would handle it. Put them in your scenario and copy cat. Know someone you would like to emulate? Ask them for suggestions.
Hindsight: Analyze what seems to have worked for you in the past. I appreciate that your really intense healthy living venture worked for a time. I ask you to look at the months that followed, did you gain all the weight back? Did you stop exercising all together? Did a more moderate plan provide longer term success?
Dare to Be Different: All or nothing people and Type A personalities tend to surround themselves with others like them. I wouldn’t suggest you find a whole new circle, but I do suggest you embrace being different in your efforts toward healthy living moderation. Different might just be your key to success and success, afterall, is the whole point.
Good luck! Email me if you need help.

It’s All in the Framing

I find that most women enjoy living and working in spaces that are pleasing to the eye. We are affected by our environment – in good ways and bad. Most of us have made satisfying changes to our physical surroundings: rearranging furniture, changing colors, adding accent pieces, etc. Posters taped to the wall were perfectly enjoyable in our college dorm room. Later, in our own place, the Audrey Hepburn print looks childish tacked to the wall. A quick change with matting and framing placed in a powder room – it is lovely again.

littleblackdressHow does this relate to weight loss and healthful living? I’d like you to consider the following: “how do I frame my healthful choices?” Are they burdens you have to trudge through? Taxing restrictions? Irritating obligations to be endured until you hopefully arrive at your goal. OR as my client so brilliantly and happily shared about her positive lifestyle change success, “It’s not denial, it’s a choice.” This is a very busy career woman. She chooses to think of her eating habit adjustments and cardio and resistance training workouts as empowering choices, decisions she is making and enjoying in order to improve her life. There is an ownership and pride and empowerment to this perspective. Yes, changes require effort and they are an addition to her “to do list” BUT, they are also uplifting and confirming. She frames these actions in terms of her prerogative to affect the course of her life. What a wonderful spin on the meaningful choices we make.

Our choices can empower us or burden us. Sometimes it’s the circumstance and sometimes it’s the attitude we bring to the table. Take a moment and check in – do you bring an attitude of burden to your healthy habits and scheduling? Or, do you recognize the power inherent to decision making and celebrate? This is your life and your choice to try for change. A switch in perspective could be an easy and uplifting boost. Give it a try. With nothing to lose, you might be pleasantly surprised and gleefully empowered.

Slimmer in Seconds

So, it’s a tough moment for all of us but, once again, your mother was right. Pay attention to your posture and you improve the hang of your clothes, your first impression and how your body feels. Standing tall and improving how you carry yourself can makes us look longer and slimmer in seconds as well as alleviating some bodily aches from bad habits.

Below is a side by side of poor poster v. healthy. Yes, I am uber pregnant but even with the baby belly you can see how different each stance reads and where your attention is drawn.

Good PosturePoor Posture

Here are easy tips for checking and improving your posture:

  •  Let go of the ideas of “sucking in” and “tucking under”. Instead, think of a string laced through your spine, gently tugging out the top of your head.
  • Unlock your knees
  • Shoulders down and back
  • Do ten large shoulder rolls backward to help open up rounded shoulders from hours of computer work or driving
  • Tall or large chested? There is no reason to apologize with your posture – both are lovely traits on women – we are not in junior high anymore.
  • From the side: your ears, shoulders, hips, knees and ankles should create a straight vertical line
  • Take a few deep breaths and a quick shake of the body to  “reset” your posture through out the day.
  • Wear a different piece of jewelry to remind yourself to implement your new good posture habit.